photo: Tony Ferreira (LinkedIn)
As minor league camp opens each March, the St. Louis Cardinals make a series of special announcements and award presentations at the organization’s spring training orientation meeting in Jupiter, Florida.
One piece of very important recognition disclosed on Thursday afternoon is the winner of the George Kissell Award for excellence in player development across the Cardinals organization.
That well-deserved selection for the 2019 season is a popular choice. The winner is the glue of the player development staff, Manager of Player Development Tony Ferreira. He follows his boss, Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque, the 2018 honoree.
About the winner
LaRocque, also known informally as the “farm director”, is the CEO of the Cardinals minor league operations – with Ferreira his indispensable right-hand man. The player development staff take newly-signed players and help them improve, with the best of them eventually becoming major leaguers.
Ferreira is responsible for countless areas of responsibility within the Cardinals organization, often times challenged with no notice to resolve a myriad of immediate problems.
“Tony’s day is far deeper than mine in terms of the bandwidth he has to cover,” LaRocque said.
“Envision being responsible for 240 players, all the movement that goes on, 40 dedicated staff members (I say 40 dedicated because they are in the minor leagues – uniformed staff personnel), 20 additional personnel that are trainers and strength coaches – and then I just say, ‘Tony, it is all yours.’
“It is really consuming. In the position, he has to know everything every day in order to save us time.”
LaRocque recently shared a typical day’s example, from mid-January as instructional camp closed.
“We had a player who was moving from Florida, going home to California,” the farm director said. “To show you what Tony does that nobody ever sees, he flew in here (to St. Louis), got in here late at night from Florida because he was down there.
“The player had problems – and the way he was routed was through Chicago to get to Los Angeles. And he was delayed. So within a matter of minutes, Tony had to change it – knowing that all the flights out of Chicago were booked. He couldn’t get the player out. And then it goes on with everything involved in the logistics in moving a player.
“Now, multiply that – which is the remarkable part about what he does every single day. He knows our system. He knows our players. He knows our staff. And the contributions he makes – that is why I always enjoy recognizing him. Because the contributions he makes on a day-to-day level are what really allow us to work and make it go.
“When you have a problem in Johnson City over something – meal money or otherwise – you are calling Tony. So I thank Tony. He has been here the same amount of time I have (since 2008) and he knows the Cardinals inside and out,” LaRocque concluded.
One can only imagine how many times this kind of scenario was repeated in a condensed time frame this Friday and Saturday as the organization sent 175 individuals home due to the closing of minor league camp.
The fact that the minor league managers, coaches and staff selected Ferreira for this honor speaks volumes. In fact, this is only the second time a non-uniformed individual has received the Kissell Award in over two decades.
The George Kissell Award
The Kissell Award is the top recognition any member of the player development organization could receive and remains an annual reminder of the importance of George Kissell to generations of Cardinals.
Through his teaching, Kissell essentially wrote the book that was later labeled “The Cardinal Way” as a player, manager and teaching leader of the organization from 1940 until he passed away in the fall of 2008 due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident.
The Cardinals recognized Kissell’s importance long before his untimely passing, first establishing the Award in 1995 to recognize a member of the organizational staff for excellence in player development. In the most appropriate nod, Kissell himself received the first Award.
The winner is chosen through voting by the Cardinals minor league field staff, with the peer recognition making it especially meaningful.
Congratulations to the George Kissell Award winner for 2019, Tony Ferreira.
More about George
Among Kissell’s many other honors is a plaque outside the Cardinals Jupiter clubhouse highlighting his numerous accomplishments as well as the naming of the team’s minor league quad in his honor.
The inscription on the plaque says it all.
“Every player in the Cardinal organization since 1940 has had contact with George Kissell and they all have been better for it. One of the most respected people in the game of baseball at any level, George has worked in all areas of the Cardinals’ baseball operations. He was a scout, minor league manager, major league coach, and, as senior field coordinator for player development, he has coordinated the team’s minor league affiliates.
“Well known for his emphasis on fundamentals, George taught several generations of Redbirds how to play baseball. In recognition of his teaching excellence and personal example, the George Kissell Award is presented annually to the Cardinals outstanding player development staff person.
“George Kissell is one of the true foundations of the Cardinals tradition.”
Though Kissell was not eligible in the fan voting for Modern Era players to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, he was chosen as an “owner’s selection” and entered the Hall in 2015. For 2020, you can vote for several hitters who were once among Kissell’s students at cardinals.com/hof.
George Kissell Award winners
Two-time Kissell Award honorees include Steve Turco, Chris Maloney and Mark DeJohn. Turco is now retired, but was a long-time manager and scout. Maloney was formerly St. Louis’ third-base coach and DeJohn also just retired as the organization’s minor league field coordinator.
Five members of the current St. Louis staff are prior winners, starting with manager Mike Shildt, plus bench coach Oliver Marmol, Clapp, third base coach Ron “Pop” Warner and bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd.
|2019||Tony Ferreira||Player dev. manager||2006||Chris Maloney||Springfield manager|
|2018||Gary LaRocque||Player dev. director||2005||Ron “Pop” Warner||Palm Beach manager|
|2017||Stubby Clapp||Memphis manager||2004||Blaise Ilsley||Tenn. pitching coach|
|2016||Steve Turco||Gulf Coast Lg. mgr.||2003||Mark DeJohn||Tenn. manager|
|2015||Randy Niemann||PB pitching coach||2002||Danny Sheaffer||Peoria manager|
|2014||Derrick May||Minors hitting coord.||2001||Dyar Miller||Mem. pitching coach|
|2013||Oliver Marmol||State College mgr.||2000||Gaylen Pitts||Memphis manager|
|2012||Bryan Eversgerd||Sgf. pitching coach||1999||Mark Riggins||Minors pitching coord.|
|2011||Steve Turco||Gulf Coast Lg. mgr.||1998||Joe Pettini||Minors field coord.|
|2010||Mike Shildt||Johnson City mgr.||1997||Mark O’Neal||Mem. athletic trainer|
|2009||Chris Maloney||Memphis manager||1996||Bo Milliken||Minors pitching instr.|
|2008||Mark DeJohn||Batavia manager||1995||George Kissell||Senior field coord.|
|2007||Dan Radison||Minors hitting instr.|
Bold=currently in the organization
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